Wednesday, December 14, 2005

There are trotters, then there are feet

Do any of your remember my post about food for emotional invalids?

Well, now I have to post about food for physical invalids. My dear dining and life companion, Sarah, seems to have fractured her foot in an innocent stumble down the stairs. When she awoke on Monday morning her foot looked like a brined piece of meat (gross, I know, but it did), so swollen that you couldn't tell if she had bones or an arch. After an exciting seven hour stay at the hospital, she returned with a fresh set of crutches. Now she's hopping and hobbling her way around. It's a little cute and a little annoying, and since every task now requires monumental effort on her part, I've tried to streamline her life a little by making her dinner, since I'm working tonight.

I whipped up a lovely potato-leek soup using all the surplus ingredients from last week's trip to the Berkeley Farmer's Market. A nice bunch of baby leeks, an onion, 1 clove of garlic, ten baby yukon gold potatoes, skins on. I melted a knob of butter, added the chopped garlic, leeks and onion, sauteed them until translucent, then added 4 cups of chicken stock and the halved potatoes. Boiled until the potatoes were tender, whizzed in the blender and added some chopped parsley. Active time: about 7 minutes. Really.

I used some homemade chicken stock that I had in the freezer. Having homemade stock (or any good edible, for that matter) in the freezer makes me feel like a rich person with a stocked larder, ready for dinner at anytime. It's like money in the bank. That's why yesterday, on yet another scouting mission for the Sunday supper, I deliberated in the soup aisle comparing the ingredients on a bunch of "premium" packaged beef stocks. A quart of prepared stock costs abut $3.00 and doesn't require any effort or time. They taste OK, but usually lack the body and deep flavor of their homemade counterparts. Finally I decided that this is a special meal for special people who deserve homemade beef stock. So I wheeled my cart to the meat counter, got 5 pounds of beef knuckle hacked into pieces, went home, browned the bones in the oven, set off the smoke alarm, deglazed, dumped the whole mess in a pot, covered it with water and let it simmer away for three hours. The result? A big cup of surplus beef fat (sweet bonus!), 16 cups of premium deep brown stock (some for dinner on Sunday and some for a future pot of French onion soup) and a sense of happy contentment.

For me, that's what good cooking is all about--a sense of happy contentment. Now, go make yourselves some soup.

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